India activist in anti-graft fast, more pressure on govt

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A veteran Indian social activist on Wednesday began a day-long fast against corruption and the government’s violent crackdown against a similar peaceful protest, tapping into widespread anger at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s failure to curb graft. Hundreds joined Anna Hazare’s hunger strike, piling further pressure on the ruling Congress party, condemned for dispatching hundreds of police with batons and tear gas at midnight on Saturday to break up an anti-graft hunger strike by a yoga guru.
“It is not a crime to protest against something wrong… if you want to beat up protesters, it is not right. I do not fear dying,” Hazare said before leaving for his fast in New Delhi’s fierce summer heat.
The septuagenarian Hazare, clad in white, began his fast on a stage at the memorial site of independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi. With riot police out in force, protesters clapped, sang, beat drums and waved the green, saffron and white national flag outside the gates of the memorial — a sunken garden with a large marble slab marking the place where Gandhi was cremated. Many participants wore t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “India Against Corruption”.
“What happened on Saturday was a brutal assault on democracy. Beating innocent people, including children, and women, who were protesting peacefully,” said Vikram Shetty, an administrator at large foreign IT company in Bangalore.